SSC Members Speak to Trustees About Student Initiatives, Future Plans

SSC representatives assemble on Jan. 31. Photo by Hercules Zhang.

Members of the Student Staff Council presented to the Board of Trustees on Feb. 7, discussing updates on student life and issues for the Board to help with, including student mental health and environmental sustainability.

The SSC group that attended the meeting consisted of a representative from each grade and Assistant Principal for School Life Quinn Killy. The SSC members joined the trustees for part of a regular Board meeting in a large eighth grade classroom.

SSC was trying to create an open line of communication with the Board after it was unable to establish a student Board seat

In an eight-slide presentation obtained by the Bit, student representatives first explained the structure of SSC. They then talked about the successes of initiatives run by groups such as the Student Action Committee and Enviro Club.

SSC also provided an update on its upcoming projects, mentioning plans to expand the Forum and educate the community about recycling, among other issues.

Killy said he thought the presentation was successful in the aim of informing the Board on SSC’s work. “The Board was pretty invested in listening and hearing what students have to say,” he said in an interview.

Senior and SSC president Aidan Kohn-Murphy agreed. “The Board was very receptive,” he said. “They seemed committed to listening to student input, and it’s something that I’m really proud of.”

Board Chair Lisa Fairfax told the four SSC members in a Zoom meeting in December that SSC presentations to trustees before the pandemic were unrelated to the high-level goals the Board focuses on, two student representatives told the Bit. She also said that presenters were not prepared to field Board members’ questions. (Fairfax did not respond to requests for comment.)

Junior Daria Kabiri, an SSC representative who presented to the Board, said that the trustees “can’t help us with day-to-day initiatives because they focus on more long-term projects like fundraising.”

GDS’ by-laws state that the Board’s mission is to evaluate the school’s finances, including stability and budget, and assist administrators in long-term planning.

In the Feb. 7 meeting, the SSC prioritized topics that the representatives believed were more relevant to what the Board does, freshman SSC representative Koen Yu told the Bit.

Lauren Dickert, GDS’ chief of staff and a liaison between the Board and GDS administration, said that the Board took special interest in the funding for SSC’s efforts to build a composting system. “There were questions from the Board about the cost of composting,” she said. The questions related to the Board’s role in protecting the school’s finances.

Other initiatives SSC presented on include activism by groups such as the Student Action Committee, Enviro Club’s efforts to add a sustainability page to the GDS website and the  Student Mental Health Collaborative’s work organizing a mental health teach-in day.

Students participate in a mental health teach-in day in January. Photo by Olivia Brown.

Senior Annabel Williams, a co-head of Enviro Club and the SAC’s Environmental Task Force, said that she was pleased with the fact that SSC discussed environmental sustainability with the Board. Williams helped the SSC members prepare for the presentation by sharing those two groups’ accomplishments, struggles and plans.

Kohn-Murphy said he hopes that the meeting could pave the way for more frequent communication between the Board and SSC. “There’s definitely a lot of work that the Board does, and that committees do, that student input would be very valuable,” Kohn-Murphy said, talking about issues that may affect high school students.

However, Kabiri thought that frequent communication with the Board was unnecessary. “Once a year is enough,” Kabiri said, “considering that the Board can’t really help us.”

Killy thought that more frequent communication with the Board was possible. “If there’s a need for more than they will be invited for more,” he said, referring to SSC representatives. 

Dickert said more frequent meetings between the Board and SSC would not be viable due to the Board’s limited time. She suggested instead that SSC provide the Board with written updates.